From 27 December 2011: Today is infusion day. Raining like hell outside, so the drive down to the infusion center should be an adventure. Once every four weeks, I spend an afternoon getting an IV full of mouse juice. I am treated for MS with Tysabri, a.k.a. Natalizumab, which is a monoclonal antibody agent that acts to inhibit immune cells’ ability to pass through the gut and blood-brain barrier. This keeps my own immune system from feasting on the myelin insulation sheath around my brain and spine.
Monoclonal antibodies are a class of biological agents administered to help the immune system do or not do specific business in the body. Some monoclonals kill cancer cells, some help minimize the rejection of transplanted organs, and some tamp down over-achieving immune systems that eat healthy parts of the body, like brains. Brains! Brains!
Mouse juice, you ask, with a tip of the head not unlike that of a quizzical golden retriever? Monoclonal antibodies are generated in several different ways. Tysabri is considered a “humanized” monoclonal. Protein sequences from non-human sources, such as a rats and mice, are combined with human protein sequences in a lab to make a humanized monoclonal antibody. The good folks that make Tysabri mix a bit of mouse with a bit of human, and voilà: a fine IV bag full of Chateau la Souricière! With that and a bit of luck, for 28 days my zombie immune system will not use my noggin as a chew toy.